Badger GP Formula 1 isn't boring. 2017-09-24T19:14:38Z https://badgergp.com/feed/atom/ WordPress https://badgergp-x9ecz75q73bk.netdna-ssl.com/images/2016/01/cropped-badger-b-retina-32x32.jpg Rob Watts <![CDATA[Stick or twist? How the F1 grid could change in 2019]]> https://badgergp.com/?p=972123 2017-09-24T19:14:38Z 2017-09-24T18:18:59Z Rob Watts considers who might take a risk on move on from their current team at the end of next season.

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Next year’s F1 driver market is set to be the most open and enthralling in recent memory. Rob Watts looks at the big dilemma facing some of the key drivers as they decide whether to stay put or make a move for 2019.

Here’s a question for you, and be honest. When Lewis Hamilton announced four years ago that he was leaving McLaren for Mercedes, did you honestly believe he’d now be a three-time world champion with 60 Grand Prix wins to his name?

I suspect not.

At the end of 2012, Mercedes had just a single Grand Prix victory to show from three seasons back in F1, and many people, myself included, thought that the 2008 champion was on the verge of career suicide. Fortunately for Hamilton, he didn’t share that opinion and was prepared to take a risk.

Not only could he see potential in Mercedes, but he’d grown frustrated with life at McLaren and its inability to give him a consistently quick and reliable car. With some encouragement from Niki Lauda [Mercedes-Benz vice-chairman], Hamilton made the call to switch, and it turned out to be probably the best decision he’s made in his entire career.

On the flip side, let’s consider Fernando Alonso’s career path.

At the end of 2006, the then twenty-five-year-old had won fifteen Grands Prix and was a double world champion; all achieved in just four seasons in F1. He was the hottest property in world motorsport, and his move to McLaren for 2007 seemed like a dream move.

Surely, Alonso would now go on to dominate the sport much like Michael Schumacher had done so before him?

Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso has famously made some poor career choices during his career – Image: Octane Photography

Unfortunately for Alonso, things didn’t turn out as planned and the dream move to McLaren quickly turned into a nightmare. Unhappy with the team’s refusal to make rookie Hamilton his number two, Alonso fell out with the team and left after just one season.

Ten years on, he looks increasingly unlikely to add to his two world championship titles, and remarkably, it’s now 83 races since Alonso stood on the top step of the podium. A staggering statistic that at one time would have seemed unthinkable.

But that’s part of the beauty of F1. It’s a high-speed game of chess, and it’s crucial that you make the right move at the right time. In the years since Alonso last won a title, it’s rumoured that he turned down moves to Brawn and Red Bull. Had things worked out a little differently, Hamilton may have never added to his 2008 win, and Alonso perhaps could have been a five or six-time world champion.

As Murray Walker used to say, “IF is F1 spelt backwards”.

With many drivers’ contracts up for renewal in a year’s time, we could see a very different looking grid line up in Melbourne for the start of the 2019 season. For some drivers, their next move could define their entire career, but who will get it right, and who will look back with regret in years to come?

There are two drivers we can assume are staying put, and they are perhaps the two drivers in the strongest position in the driver market right now and able to dictate their own futures; Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.

Sebastian Vettel has already made his decision, committing his future to Ferrari for another three years, thus removing himself altogether from the silly season conjecture. It would appear that winning just one world championship with Ferrari would mean more to Vettel than winning several elsewhere. His loyalty is admirable, but Ferrari hasn’t delivered a world drivers’ title since Kimi Raikkonen’s fortuitous win ten years ago, and it has ground to make up on Mercedes.

Hamilton and Vettel
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are expected to remain with their teams for the foreseeable future – Image: Octane Photography

Lewis Hamilton, on the other hand, has yet to confirm his plans beyond the end of 2018, but with Vettel now staying at Ferrari, we can surely expect Hamilton to remain where he is too.

At 32, Hamilton may consider his next contract to be his last as it’s well known he has little desire to compete in F1 into his late thirties. An extra two or three-year extension seems likely, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Hamilton could walk away from F1 after that.

With Vettel enjoying number one status at Ferrari, his main concern now will be whether his team can provide him with the machinery he needs to take the fight to Hamilton and Mercedes. Ironically, his best chance to date to win a title with the Scuderia may actually have already come and gone. A disastrous race in Singapore has put Vettel on the back foot, 28 points adrift with six races remaining.

With Hamilton seemingly on course for a fourth world title, it now seems unlikely we’ll ever see him make the switch to Ferrari, and there’s almost certainly no chance of it happening while Vettel occupies one of those seats.

Hamilton vs Vettel is proving to be one of the fascinating rivalries in recent F1 history, but there are still a few drivers who could yet force their way into future title battles if the dice fall in their favour.

The hottest driver pairing on the grid right now can arguably be found at Red Bull. Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo are a close match for each other on their day, but with Verstappen’s woeful reliability record causing tension, and a divorce from engine supplier Renault on the cards, things are not running as smoothly as it once was for the four-time constructors’ champions.

Verstappen and Ricciardo
Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo are likely to be in demand for 2019 and beyond – Image: Octane Photography

According to Christian Horner, Verstappen has a solid Red Bull contract in place for the next two years, but there are rumours that his father Jos is trying to engineer a move to Ferrari for 2019.

You could argue that Verstappen, at just 20 years of age, has plenty of time to see how his career develops, but patience is not something he’s blessed with, and one or two cracks appear to be forming in his relationship with the team.

Ricciardo, on the other hand, has done fantastically well to slow Verstappen’s momentum within the team and has arguably enhanced his reputation since the two were paired as teammates last season.

The more mature of the pair, Ricciardo is now 27 and knows he must find his way into a regular race-winning car soon if he is to compete for championships while still in his prime. On his day, he is one of the best racers in F1 and has developed a canny ability to pick up wins when those ahead falter.

Both Red Bull drivers believe they have what it takes to become world champion, but right now, besides staying put, there are only really two seats that will be of interest to them – a potential vacancy alongside Hamilton at Mercedes, and an opportunity to partner Vettel at Ferrari.

Both Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes and Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari are on one-year contracts to the end of 2018. Perhaps intentionally, both Mercedes and Ferrari have kept their options open knowing the driver market is about to open up.

Valtteri Bottas
Bottas has done a good job of taking points off Ferrari but is not guaranteed to stay with Mercedes beyond 2018 – Image: Octane Photography

Neither Bottas or Raikkonen have career security right now. Raikkonen has been fortunate to see his Ferrari contract extended over the past two years, and is unlikely to attract interest elsewhere should Ferrari decide he’s no longer required. Bottas, on the other hand, would likely be in demand, but he’s yet to prove he’s significantly more than a solid number two, and no longer appears to be on Ferrari’s radar as he was a few years back.

Stranger things have happened, but it would be surprising to see both Bottas and Raikkonen stay with their respective teams into 2019, so at least one seat is likely to open up.

Red Bull’s hopes of keeping its two drivers lie in the prospects of the team enjoying a fruitful engine partnership for 2019 onwards. Renault has said it will be ending its deal to supply the team at the end of 2018, leaving Honda as the team’s only realistic option until the new engine regulations come into play for 2021.

If Honda fails to deliver – or worse still, quits F1 altogether – then Red Bull may have a problem on its hands. Its position as Mercedes and Ferrari’s primary challenger will almost certainly come under threat from teams such as Force India, and perhaps even McLaren, if it’s new deal with Renault catapults it up the grid.

Of course, it’s entirely likely that Red Bull will find a solution to its engine woes and will remain a force at the front of the grid, but right now, it will need to prove that that is likely, if not a certainty, to have any chance of keeping both its drivers.

Should Red Bull slide down the grid, then it’s likely that Ferrari will make a move for Verstappen, or perhaps the Verstappens may make a move for Ferrari, such is the way they like to go about their business.

Christian Horner
Christian Horner faces a fight to keep both of his star drivers with the team – Image: Octane Photography

At just 20, Verstappen is ambitious, impatient, and has shown that he is not afraid to ruffle a few feathers along the way. Should he become available, then he’ll certainly not be short of offers. Mercedes chief Toto Wolff has expressed his admiration for Verstappen many times in the past, and it’s widely known that Mercedes tried to sign him before Red Bull swooped in and offered him the Toro Rosso drive.

On the other side of the garage, Ricciardo is equally as ambitious, but certainly a little more patient, and more likely to play the long game. He is unlikely, however, to accept a new contract if the team slide into the midfield but his career options are somewhat less flexible than Verstappen’s.

Despite possessing Italian heritage, it’s difficult to see Ricciardo gelling with Ferrari’s businesslike culture, so a Mercedes move is more likely to be on his radar. His personality would appear to fit with that of Hamilton’s, and he’s certainly proved himself worthing of going head-to-head with one of the sport’s greats. Just ask Sebastian Vettel.

Whatever happens, Red Bull face a fight to hold onto its drivers, and to remain near the front of the grid. In my eyes, Verstappen and Ricciardo are key to next year’s driver market, but they aren’t the only drivers looking to move further up the grid.

Force India pair, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, are the pick of the midfield drivers at present and have both targeted 2019 as the year they secure a promotion.

Perez and Ocon
Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon have been closely matched at Force India this year – Image: Octane Photography

As we’ve seen this year, competition between the pair is fierce with neither driver leaving an inch on track for the other. Perez, the older of the pair at 27, knows time is running out for him to find his way into a race-winning car. He thought he had been given the opportunity back in 2013, but a badly-timed move to McLaren coincided with the beginning of the team’s downfall.

Perez has spoken to both Williams and Renault in recent months, but it became clear that he has no interest in switching teams unless he inherits a car capable of fighting for wins. Perez has for some time made no secret of his dream to drive for Ferrari, and his new one-year deal coincides perfectly with the end of Raikkonen’s contract.

Verstappen aside, Perez’s main rival for a Ferrari seat could well be a driver who’s yet to make his Grand Prix debut. Charles Leclerc is the star performer in Ferrari’s young driver academy and is currently dominating F2. He’s expected to make his F1 debut next year with Sauber, but a seat with Ferrari is unlikely anytime soon as the team rarely consider drivers under the age of 25.

Perez’s teammate and rival, Esteban Ocon, has a bright future ahead of him and plenty of time to keep developing. He’ll be staying put at Force India for 2018 but has a long-term contract with Mercedes as part of its young driver program and remains an option for them in the future. His performances this year have led many to believe he will be considered to partner Hamilton in 2019, but at 21, Mercedes may see it a risk to promote him that soon.

The summer of 2018 looks set to be the most open and enthralling driver market in recent memory, with more than half of the grid potentially looking for a move elsewhere.

It’s easy to think the grass appears greener on the other side, but in the case of some drivers, such as Alonso in recent years, and going even further back, Jacques Villeneuve, that isn’t always the case.

The $100m question facing many drivers next year; do they stick or do they twist?

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Adam Le Feuvre <![CDATA[Our Top Dog for Singapore is…]]> https://badgergp.com/?p=972116 2017-09-18T14:39:19Z 2017-09-18T14:38:05Z A chaotic start to the Singapore GP wiped out some Top Dog contenders, so find out who scooped our Driver of the Weekend award...

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After a smashing start (sorry Seb) to the annual F1 night race, Lewis Hamilton took a commanding and fortunate lead, winning the race and taking a massive 28point lead in the championship. Daniel Ricciardo was lucky to avoid the first corner chaos and continued his long run of night time podiums, but neither of these two drivers are our Top Dog. Oh no, this weekend’s Top Dog under the lights was a certain Mr…

Carlos Sainz

The young Spaniard had a great race and dragged his Toro Rosso to great 4th place, his best ever finish in a grand prix and a massive points haul for the Italian team. Carlos has been a bit unlucky in the driver seats game, missing out to Verstappen for a run in the Red Bull team and looking for options. The recent engine merry-go-round given him a Renault works team seat alongside the Credible Hulk for 2018 and what a way to celebrate with his fantastic drive in Singapore.

If there was a prize for the Best Driver Tweet of the weekend, Sainz would also win that with his photo of his destroyed throttle pedal after the grand prix.

And a Top Dog Nod goes to…

We have to give a nod to Lewis Hamilton for his victory, which looked unlikely after practice and qualifying. And also a nod to Joylon Palmer who not only finished the race for once, but also finished a solid 6th in the Renault. And only a few days after finding out via Autosport that the French team have sacked him for 2018. What’s next for the Brit is currently unclear, but at least Sunday’s result gave him something to smile about.

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Rob Watts <![CDATA[Six reasons to watch the Singapore Grand Prix]]> https://badgergp.com/?p=972084 2017-09-14T18:30:57Z 2017-09-14T18:30:57Z The European season has come to an end, and F1 heads east for the first leg of its tour of Asia. The hot and humid Marina Bay circuit poses a unique challenge for the drivers and teams, and with just seven races remaining there’s plenty of reasons to watch this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix.

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The European season has come to an end, and F1 heads east for the first leg of its tour of Asia. The hot and humid Marina Bay circuit poses a unique challenge for the drivers and teams, and with just seven races remaining there’s plenty of reasons to watch this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix.

Can Sebastian Vettel win again to regain the championship lead?

GP SINGAPORE F1/2017
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER FERRARI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

In terms of circuit characteristics, Singapore couldn’t be any different to Monza, the track where Lewis Hamilton clinched his 59th Grand Prix win just two weeks ago. Unlike the Monza, and Spa prior to that, the Singapore circuit is likely to play to Ferrari’s strengths, hence the reason they’ve been installed as red- hot favourites this weekend

Sebastian Vettel holds the record for the most Singapore Grand Prix victories, twice as many as Hamilton and Fernando Alonso who each have two. If Ferrari do, as expected, return to the top step of the podium this weekend, they’ll be eager to make it a one-two finish, a result that no team has been able to achieve in the previous nine Singapore Grands Prix.

With several tracks coming up that will likely favour Mercedes’ car more so than Ferrari, Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix is a must-win race for Sebastian Vettel if he has ambitions to clinch his first title with Ferrari this year.

Will Mercedes falter and allow Red Bull to sneak ahead?

Image: Red Bull Racing Media

Mercedes won’t just be concentrating on Ferrari this weekend; it’ll have to keep a close eye on Red Bull too. The Milton Keynes team are expecting to have a strong weekend in Singapore, with the tight and twisty nature of the 5km long circuit reducing the team’s power disadvantage to rivals Mercedes and Ferrari.

Daniel Ricciardo is in fine form, having finished third once and second twice since joining Red Bull back in 2014. He also bagged the fastest lap at both the 2015 and 2016 Singapore Grand Prix and finished less than half a second behind last year’s race winner Nico Rosberg.

Verstappen, on the other hand, is desperate for a positive result this weekend having failed to reach the podium since round two in China. Six DNF’s already this season has seen him fall a massive 76 points behind teammate Ricciardo in the drivers’ championship, and has begun to show his frustration in recent races.

Qualifying will be fascinating, and crucial.

As has been the case on many occasions this year, qualifying for Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix is set to be a real spectacle. Watching the drivers wrestle their 2017 spec cars around the narrow Marina Bay circuit will be impressive to watch, but that aside, clinching pole position on Saturday will be crucial; perhaps the most important of the year.

Seven of the previous nine Singapore Grands Prix have been won from pole position, with only 2008 (the less said about that the better) and 2012 being the exceptions. Hamilton is looking for his 70th pole position (he’s already the F1 record holder) and fourth overall in Singapore, whereas Vettel will also be aiming for a fourth Singapore pole on Sunday.

An unwanted record looms for Nico Hulkenberg.

Image: Renault Sport F1 Team

It’s strange to think that Nico Hulkenberg is yet to stand on the podium during his F1 career, but despite that, there’s a strong argument to say he’s amongst the most talented drivers never to do so.

F1 podiums can be hard to come by though, and Hulkenberg will be all too aware of the unwanted record he’s about to inherit. Should he fail to finish in the top three in Sunday’s race, he’ll set a new record for most Grand Prix starts without a podium. Not something he’ll want on his CV.

Despite Renault showing improvement in recent months, as shown by strong top six results at both the British and Belgian Grands Prix, a podium finish seems unlikely and Hulkenberg seems destined to add his name to the record books.

Is it too late for Jolyon Palmer to save his career?

Jolyon Palmer
Image Credit: Octane Photographic

Jolyon Palmer has had a nightmare season; failing to score a single point and being out qualified 13-0 by Hulkenberg. If the pressure wasn’t already on him, Renault is expected to announce this weekend that they have signed Carlos Sainz as his replacement for 2018, so he’s now in a race to save his career. But is it too late?

Rumours are circulating that Renault may be negotiating a deal to see Sainz released from his Toro Rosso contract early, in time to make his Renault debut at the Malaysia Grand Prix next month.

Should that happen, then Singapore will be Palmer’s last chance to prove he deserves a spot on the grid next year. Right now, it’s hard to see where he’d find a seat or what he could do in Singapore to avoid leaving F1 completely, but stranger things have happened.

Perhaps his best hope of staying involved next year may be in a third driver role, but even those are becoming frequently hard to come by with most team using young driver programs to fill those seats.

The question that remains is whether Palmer has any fight left in him, or will be time be called on his F1 career this weekend?

There’ll be plenty happening off track this weekend.

Photo: Steven Tee/McLaren ref: Digital Image _R3I0899

Singapore has become a popular destination for teams to negotiate deals and announce new partnerships, and we’ve learned this week of a number of major announcements expected to be confirmed during the course of the Singapore Grand Prix weekend.

McLaren is expected to formalise its divorce from struggling Honda and confirm it is partnering with Renault for the next three years. We’ve also just learned that Renault also wants out of its deal with Red Bull meaning a rather ‘forced’ relationship with Honda could be on the cards from 2019 onwards, with its junior team Toro Rosso also expected to take Honda power next year.

On the driver front, Alonso seems set to stay with McLaren and Carlos Sainz looks to be on the move to Renault to partner Hulkenberg. With the top three teams staying as they are, this leaves at least one potentially free seat at Sauber, expected to be taken by Ferrari protege Charles Leclerc, and a free seat at Toro Rosso, with last year’s GP2 champion Pierre Gasly favourite to fill that gap.

Elsewhere, Williams is yet to confirm whether Felipe Massa will stay for 2018, but Robert Kubica now seems to be linked with the team after the news of Renault’s deal with Sainz.

One thing’s for sure, we’ve learned down the years to expect the unexpected in Formula 1. So while this all seems likely to be the way it pans out, there’s often a twist that few of us saw coming.

Watch this space.

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Craig Norman <![CDATA[Video: Max Verstappen discusses his rapid rise to F1 and the influence of his father, Jos]]> https://badgergp.com/?p=972058 2017-09-07T04:57:25Z 2017-09-07T04:57:25Z Max Verstappen’s swift rise through motorsport’s junior categories saw him promoted into Formula One faster than any driver before. And it has proved to be a risk worth taking for Red Bull, as Verstappen has since become the youngest driver ever to win a race or score points in the series.

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Max Verstappen’s swift rise through motorsport’s junior categories saw him promoted into Formula One faster than any driver before. And it has proved to be a risk worth taking for Red Bull, as Verstappen has since become the youngest driver ever to win a race or score points in the series.

Mobil 1 The Grid spoke to the Dutch teenager to find out more about his path into F1, and why he is full of praise for the focus and dedication passed on to him by his father, Jos.

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Emma Thomson <![CDATA[The Top Dog for Monza is…]]> https://badgergp.com/?p=972052 2017-09-04T08:54:19Z 2017-09-04T08:44:19Z That’s Round 13 of the championship done and dusted on the historic straights and chicanes of the Italian Grand Prix. But who is Badger’s lucky 13th Top Dog of the year?

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That’s Round 13 of the championship done and dusted on the historic straights and chicanes of the Italian Grand Prix. But who is Badger’s lucky 13th Top Dog of the year?  A soggy qualifying left us with a topsy-turvy grid, leaving the door open for an unusual suspect. Who gave us a bravura performance in front of the fanatical Tifosi?

It’s time to say ‘ciao’ to our Monza Top Dog…

…DANIEL RICCIARDO

Image: Red Bull Racing Media

Yep, the Honey Badger has come up trumps again. Having qualified a brilliant third in the wet, a fistful of engine penalties (don’t get me started on all that nonsense) saw Dan relegated to a P16 start come race day. If there’s one driver I never tire of watching hard charging through the field, it’s Danny Ric. Recovery drive a go-go – and boy, did he deliver! 

THE QUIET ASSASSIN

He started off quietly enough, slowly picking off the guys in front. No heroics just focused and precise execution of his phenomenal overtaking ability. His ‘dummy’ right-left pass on Sergio Perez was classic Ricciardo, as was his comment on the radio straight after.  

Informed that Felipe Massa was next up the road – and not exactly setting the timing sheets alight – Daniel could sniff another victim and made his feelings known with a tongue-in-cheek  “I like them vulnerable!”. That’s what I love about our Dan; he’s a true showman in and out of the cockpit with buckets of personality and the talent to back it up.

PODIUM PURSUIT

Meanwhile, back on track – and despite all the hard charging – he managed to keep his tyres in good shape until Lap 38. Thanks to a mega 2.2-second pit stop from the Red Bull crew, he set off like a heat seeking missile after the Prancing Horses.  

Ricciardo quickly dispensed with Kimi Raikkonen with a spectacular, brakes-a-locking move through the first chicane – and from about a mile back to boot. With one Ferrari down, he duly set off after Sebastian. Could he spoil Ferrari’s 70th birthday party and snag that last podium place? He certainly tried his damndest, banging out fastest lap after fastest lap in hot pursuit of a below pace Vettel.   

But he simply ran out of time. Cue huge sigh of relief from the Tifosi. A few more laps, and who knows? And just imagine what he might have achieved if he had started where he actually qualified? Still, it was another sparkling show from our awesome Aussie with an Italian name.

Bravo signore on another Top Dog award.  Enjoy!

Image: Red Bull Racing Media

DEPUTY DOGS

Special mention must go to former Top Dog winner, Lance Stroll and Force India’s Sebastian Ocon. Both were outstanding in wet qualifying and didn’t let the thrill of starting P2 and P3 go to their heads. It was a pleasure to watch these two young guns racing hard (sometimes with each other!), defending brilliantly (a thrilling last lap between Stroll and team-mate Felipe Massa) and generally showing the sport is in good shape for the future. Nice work, boys.   

Another round done, Lewis Hamilton has taken the championship lead for the first time in 2017 and Singapore is next. Could it be any more exciting? The smart money is on the Prancing Horse winning Singapore at a canter. But who will be the next Top Dog? Follow Badger for all the action in everyone’s favourite night race. Arrivederci!  

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Craig Norman <![CDATA[Four reasons to watch the Italian Grand Prix]]> https://badgergp.com/?p=972022 2017-08-31T09:48:08Z 2017-08-31T09:48:08Z We’ve only just recovered from Spa, but F1 is back again this weekend at the legendary Monza circuit – home to the Italian Grand Prix and the famous Tifosi.

Here are four things we’re excited to see in Monza…

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We’ve only just recovered from Spa, but F1 is back again this weekend at the legendary Monza circuit – home to the Italian Grand Prix and the famous Tifosi.

Here are four things we’re excited to see in Monza…

Will it be home comforts for Ferrari?

G.P. BELGIO F1/2017 – SPA FRANCORCHAMPS
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER FERRARI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

Moving into the faster circuits of Spa and Monza, you’d be certain that Mercedes’ aero advantage over Ferrari would play into their hands. In a way, it did with Lewis Hamilton’s breathtaking pole position lap and Safety Car affected race victory, but Ferrari wasn’t as far behind as many, including themselves, had predicted.

Ferrari’s home turf is all about raw power, braking and traction through the slower corners that punctuate the lap. Could Sebastian Vettel’s claim that the Scuderia have “no circuit to fear” for the rest of 2017 mean that the Tifosi will have plenty to cheer about?

Is Verstappen heading for the Red Bull exit?

Image: Red Bull Racing Media

Unbelievably, Max Verstappen’s failure in Spa – which saw the Red Bull pull off the Kemmel straight in a plume of disappointment – was the Dutchman’s sixth retirement this season. That’s one more than the much maligned Fernando Alonso, and top of the charts in terms of mechanical failures.

It’s no illusion that this isn’t what Max wanted when he was promoted to the main team last season. The maiden triumph in Spain last season felt like the start of something special, and now feels like an age away.

It’s even started the rumour that the Verstappen clan are looking to move on to another team, with father Jos being asked by Dutch television, saying that “you start to question everything” when things go wrong this regularly.

Red Bull have responded by going on the offensive towards engine partner Renault, a position that is as familiar to them as a pair of old slippers. It may be a little too late if this continues, however – were watching a once in a generation talent fall by the wayside.

Force India is now a top team – for all the wrong reasons

Image: Sahara Force India Media

Another race, another coming together from the two Force India drivers. Only this time it wasn’t once, it was twice, and the repercussions from FI management came swiftly – do it again, and you’re banned.

Sound familiar? That’s because it’s the same policy enforced by Mercedes last season, in response to Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg getting a bit too close for comfort as their title battle heated up.

It’s a message sent to stop Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon damaging the season the team is having. Force India sit in a solid fourth place in terms of constructors and it should be a great time for the team, yet they’re dealing with nearly warring teammates that could scupper it all, which only goes to show that joining the top tier means having top tier problems.

Is it all over for Fernando Alonso, McLaren and Honda?

Photo: Steven Tee/McLaren.

The next few weeks will be decisive for everyone involved at McLaren and Honda; the team have made overtures to other engine suppliers, notably Renault, while Honda has cancelled a 2018 deal with Sauber, leading to rumours of a complete withdrawal. And sitting in the middle of it all is a World Champion desperate to be competitive.

In Spa, Fernando Alonso’s start saw him on the tail of the leading pack in an incredibly impressive seventh place, only to have car after car pass him on the straights and an early finish due to an engine problem. But Honda now says there wasn’t a problem in the data they’ve studied, insinuating that Alonso simply gave up.

Sooner, rather than later. decisions need to be made by all involved. Does Alonso leave in search of that competitive car? Do Honda withdraw completely from Formula One? Where can McLaren go if one or the other, or both, happen? At least in Italy, we’ll be one step closer to the end of this whole mess.

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Emma Thomson <![CDATA[Our Top Dog for the Belgian GP is…]]> https://badgergp.com/?p=972000 2017-08-27T20:36:31Z 2017-08-27T20:36:31Z Emma Thomson picks her Driver of the Day for the Belgian Grand Prix

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F1 is back and perfectly poised for a zinger of a second half to the season.  This week’s battle was on the revered tarmac of the magnificent Spa circuit in the Belgian Ardennes. 

We saw some terrific Spa Wars – Hamilton versus Vettel up front, dicing battles in the midfield and, in a classic case of too much ‘Force be with you’, a full-on dodgem fight between Ocon and Perez. But who is Badger’s choice for the canine champ of Francorchamps?  Come and collect your Top Dog treat… 

LEWIS HAMILTON

When Lewis is on his A-game, it is truly something to behold.  And when championship leader Sebastian Vettel is on top form too, it makes our hearts beat that bit faster.  We’ve rarely seen the two championship protagonists in close quarters this season and things were beautifully set up for a ding-dong battle after Saturday qualifying. 

Qualifying

Championship leader Seb played a blinder to take second on the grid but he was always going to be up against it on a power circuit like Spa.   But even by his superlative standards, Lewis’s pole position performance was sublime.  He now equals Michael Schumacher for top spot starts and seemed genuinely emotional at finally drawing level with Schumi’s longstanding record of 68 poles. 

Keep the horses back

No points for qualifying though.  Hamilton was no doubt hoping for an easy day of it by using his superior Mercedes horsepower to chip away at Seb’s 14-point lead. But Vettel had other ideas.  Lewis had a mirror full of red from the off, with Vettel using the famous Spa slipstream to hound the Mercedes from Eau Rouge, down the long drag of the Kemmel straight all the way to Les Coombs.  Sebastian made a great charge, but Hamilton used all of his defensive wiles to keep the prancing horse behind. 

Safety First

Job done?  You might have thought so, but a Lap 30 Safety Car made this little Badger sit up in their sett! Our top two changed tyres, but chose different compounds. Nice one! Everyone bunched up behind the safety car, all advantage neutralised.  With the race effectively reset, Hamilton had to nail the restart or risk being mugged by the Ferrari.  Vettel looked like he fancied his chances this time around.  With barely a fag paper between them through Eau Rouge, Vettel pulled alongside Hamilton down the straight (using the Kemmel tow, if you will!) But with the pedal to the metal and some nifty defensive positioning, Lewis shut the door and kept his rival in his wake all the way to the flag. 

Final Thought

Hamilton made no mistakes all weekend. None. It was an awesome display of high speed, metronomic precision in both qualifying and race trim.  He didn’t have it all his own way, which must make this particular victory even sweeter.  And the gap to Vettel is back down to 7 points. 

Not a bad effort for your 200th Grand Prix.  Well done, Mr H.  Top Dog once again.

Up next, it’s Monza time.  Can Ferrari give the tifosi something to smile about and snaffle the Top Dog prize? Join Badger GP for all the thrills and spills of the Italian Grand Prix. Only one week to wait!

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Craig Norman <![CDATA[Five reasons to watch the Belgian Grand Prix]]> https://badgergp.com/?p=969136 2017-08-25T09:37:02Z 2017-08-24T22:00:52Z The summer break is over and Formula One roars back into life with the Belgian Grand Prix. Four weeks is a long time to mull over the second half of the season, but it all starts now - here are a few pointers before the cars hit the track for the rest of 2017.

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The summer break is over and Formula One roars back into life with the Belgian Grand Prix. Four weeks is a long time to mull over the second half of the season, but it all starts now – here are a few pointers before the cars hit the track for the rest of 2017.

Kimi sticks it out for another year

Image: Octane Photographic

The first call of business to discuss ahead of Spa is the news that Ferrari has retained Kimi Raikkonen for the 2018 season.

Was it a boring choice? Depends on your thoughts when it comes to the Finn, but there’s no denying that he’s fallen into the role of second driver to Sebastian Vettel well this season, which keeps Ferrari in the hunt for the constructors title.

And that might be exactly what the 2007 World Champion is now – an expensive second driver. Looking his stats, it’s 10 years since that title, eight years since a win at Ferrari, four years since a win in general. The Kimi we all love is there in personality, but not on the track, and hasn’t been for some time. Can he survive for another year? Might be a bit early to start the 2019 sepcualtion already.

These 2017 cars will be mega in Belgium

Image: Octane Photographic

When these beefier, faster F1 cars were tested for the first time in Barcelona back in February, there was unanimous approval from the drivers that they were a challenge to drive once more.

The increase in downforce meant that lap times would drop and driving would be a challenge. Of all the circuits they were looking forward to trying them out on, though, Spa was number one by some distance. This is the perfect playground for the 2017-spec cars to be pushed to their limits on.

Prepare for a sea of orange

Image: Octane Photographic

Belgium may have Stoffel Vandoorne to cheer on this weekend – which may be hard considering the 35-place grid penalty he’s already been handed – but the support will be coming in droves across the Netherlands border for one Max Verstappen.

While this season hasn’t gone the way we’d all hoped, mainly thanks to the reliability of the Red Bull, but that won’t distract the tens of thousands of fans will don orange and make the short trip across the border from the Netherlands into Belgium, creating one of the most electric atmospheres at a circuit on the F1 calendar.

Will they be smiling come Sunday night? That all depends on the fragility of the Red Bull and it’s Renault power unit, but the Orange Army will be backing their man every step of the way.

Mercedes vs Ferrari is as fascinating as it comes

Image: Octane Photographic

Part of a great championship is not just a battle between drivers, but between teams trying to push their levels of development further and further.

Ferrari started the season on top as Mercedes struggled to understand its Rubiks cube of a car, yet the Brackley squad worked tirelessly to understand what was happening.

The Scuderia ended a two-month win drought in Hungary courtesy of Vettel, enjoying a pace advantage that appeared to peg Mercedes back, after the latter looked dominant at Silverstone.

Spa should be a track that suits Mercedes’ W08 car, giving Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas the edge. They will need to work hard to ensure they capitalise on their advantage, though, keeping us as fans looking at the teams as well as the drivers.

Vettel and Hamilton rekindle the fight

Image: Octane Photographic

With the return of F1 comes the return of the title battle that we’ve been discussing all season – Sebastian Vettel vs. Lewis Hamilton. What started as a bromance became a nasty spat in Azerbaijan and it’s had a bit of needle since. Which, of course, is great for us a viewing fans.

Vettel heads into the second half of the season with a 14 point lead, but the pendulum has swung from Ferrari to Mercedes and back again over the first half so much it’s not only hard to predict who will win each and every race. As long as the narrative stays intriguing then we could be in for a classic title fight for the ages.

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Adam Le Feuvre <![CDATA[Why You Need a Playseat for Racing Games]]> https://badgergp.com/?p=968857 2017-08-25T08:58:19Z 2017-08-24T20:46:48Z Driving racing cars at home is fun, but with a Playseat it is incredible, find out why.

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I’ve been busy over the last week ‘testing’ the new F1 2017 game on PS4, the latest racing game in my return to gaming alongside Assetto Corsa and Project CARS. And also had the pleasure of reviewing the Playseat F1 and Playseat Challenge.

The new F1 2017 game encouraged me further to invest in a wheel and pedals to match the realism of the new game, but there was still something missing – sitting at a table, even if you’re down low at a coffee table just does not work. It’s not right so it was time to look into so-called gaming chairs.

I went with Playseat, I recognise the brand from all the F1 sim setups you see at events and drivers such as Max Verstappen also use them, so you can’t argue with that. And thanks to the lovely folks at Playseat I’ve been able to get my hands on and use 2 of their models – the budget ‘Playseat Challenge’ and the flagship ‘Playseat F1’ setup.

A Racing Chair – Really?

Firstly, I’m not a professional gamer type and I first laughed at the idea of a special seat for driving games, but when you start reading up and even try one out, the benefit and difference they make is simply incredible.

The F1 Playseat is not a throwaway purchase, it’s quite an investment at around £800, but when you see it, it’s clear why – it’s solid, heavy (in a good way) is well engineered and is completely adjustable so that you can quickly switch it around for shorter and taller players drivers. The chair looks awesome and it creates a true Formula 1 style seating position with your feet almost as high as your shoulders and just enough room to get your legs under the wheel.

Unique Racing Feeling 

As gaming seats go, it’s pretty unique and it is the best way to get a proper F1 feeling for the new game. I still laugh at myself for having one in the office, but even those that doubt the chair or question the point of it are quickly converted after lowering themselves into it and completing a few laps. Even my better half kept asking for ‘just one more lap’ and her previous gaming experience is Sonic on the Megadrive. She’s not a huge F1 fan either, more a passing interest, but Playseat F1 completely won her over in minutes. She claims it’s mindful too – you’re so immersed in the game that your mind switches off from everything else. I get it too – being in an unusual but realistic seating position just drives your focus in the game. 

If I’ve lost you, just make sure that next time you see a similar setup available to have a go on that you take advantage and you’ll see why having a Playseat F1 really is not quite such a ridiculous purchase, it’s a fantastic bit of kit.

Building the Playseat

And if you’re tempted, check out the official Playseat store, they deliver worldwide within 2 days at no extra cost and the service was excellent for ordering ours. The setup arrives in 2 boxes, some 30kg in weight and then there’s the slight matter of putting it all together. Takes 30mins or so and they provide all the bolts and tools to do it, so it’s more like fun than a chore. 

Playseat F1 – delivered in 2 boxes and built in less than an hour.

And then you’re good to bolt on your pedals and wheel – it’s compatible with pretty much all makes and models and they even include the screws you’re likely to need too. I’ve gone for the TM300RS wheel and pedals with the F1 wheel add-on and this whole setup really does take some beating. Yes I’m sure that some gaming aficionados will tell me that there are better pedals and wheels out there and that I should be using a PC with triple screen, but I purposefully kept it all nice and simple and this setup is glorious to use. Cannot recommend it enough, except for one little thing… the Playseat Challenge chair is also available. 

The Playseat Challenge

Now, before the Playseat F1 came along I was trying out the “Playseat Challenge” seat. Firstly, this chair is relatively cheap at around £150 or thereabouts, so definitely much easier on the wallet. But that’s not the reason why it causes a problem for me over the F1 seat. 

It arrives and takes around 30s to build. If you look around at comments online you’ll see mentions of it being an overpriced camping chair and while yes I can see what these people are thinking, but they clearly haven’t actually tried or seen one because it’s a far cry from the crappy camping chairs we all know and hate. 

Genius Product

The Challenge is simply a genius product. Yes it’s lightweight, made of metal tubing, but it’s also pretty solid and because the main structure of the seat section is based on the same principle of a camping chair it is ridiculously comfortable, an absolute joy to sit in. The top section of the seat is modelled on a proper race seat so it still creates the race car feeling, while also being comfy. Clever.

Like the F1 seat, it’s adjustable too with the massive velcro arm sections allowing plenty of movement for different heights and the pedals section is also adjustable so you can move them forward and back as needed too. 

My Verdict

I’m a fan of the Playseat Challenge because as well as being comfy, it’s also massively practical – simply unplug your wheel from the Playstation and fold the chair up, complete with the wheel and pedals still attached, then stow it out of the way. If you fancy a quick race then you can oh so quickly get it out and you’re racing by the time the game has loaded. You can also adjust it far enough to get it close to being in an F1 style position and so if you can raise the pedals up you’re getting close to a proper setup. 

But that’s where the Challenge loses out, it doesn’t quite deliver the same level of immersion that the Playseat F1 does – racing cars shouldn’t be comfortable and you should be virtually lying down with little room for your knees. But for me as a casual gamer who’s just getting into the whole racing sim idea, the Challenge is ideal and so much fun. I’m sold.

But then, if you know you’re going to be spending hours, days or more playing the F1 game and want to feel as much a part of the game as possible, then you really should consider the Playseat F1. It’s an expense that won’t go unnoticed, but the results it delivers are unrivalled.

If I could I’d keep both and if I had the space I would have the Playseat F1 setup and ready for a proper racing session. I did get more out of it in terms of immersion and realism – it shouldn’t make that much difference, but it is a great product and if you have the opportunity to try one or buy one, you should – you will not be disappointed.

If you’re interested to know more contact or browse the official Playseat Store. Ivo and Tim are very helpful.

Bonus Material

The Playseat Challenge was reviewed by a well-known sim racing site by these 2 interesting characters. I’m not endorsing their style here, but it’s a good way to see what the Playseat Challenge is like. If you can get past the camping chair likeness you’ll see how I arrived at the ‘genius product’ statement – it is so well thought out, even the way you get into it is clever. 

And then by comparison here’s Max Verstappen using the Playseat F1

More images from the Badger GP home office setup with the Playseat F1

 

Disclaimer: Playseat did provide the seats at a discount in exchange for a review, but the review is a true reflection on my experience of Playseat and if I wasn’t impressed I’d have cancelled the deal!

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Adam Le Feuvre <![CDATA[Guy Martin joins Williams F1 for the Belgian GP]]> https://badgergp.com/?p=971884 2017-08-24T09:40:08Z 2017-08-24T09:39:48Z Yes, THAT Guy Martin is going to be working for the Williams F1 team this weekend, excellent!

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The brilliant and completely bonkers Guy Martin will be in Spa this weekend for the Belgian Grand Prix in Williams F1 Team overalls.

Not just for a laugh either, he’s going to be part of the pit crew for the great British team, working on building the cars up, the practice sessions as well as qualifying and the race itself. 

If you’re not familiar with Guy Martin then checkout the film “Closer to the Edge” – it’s a docufilm about Guy and the Isle of Man TT. You’ll quickly see why we affectionately refer to him as bonkers. 

Good luck to Guy for this weekend, hope he gets some TV time too, he’s such an entertaining character.

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